Music Reviews

cover
Artist: no:carrier (@)
Title: Between The Chairs
Format: CD
Label: Electric Heresy (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
This German synth-pop band has a history that goes back to 1995, including a full CD release in 2002 on the old Electric Heresy German label before it went bust in 2003. The no:carrier of today features Cynthia Wechselberger on vocals and Christian Wirsig on vocals and everything else, which means synths, keyboards, rhythm programming, etc. Wirsig revived the Electric Heresy label, presumably for this release, but there are a few other artists on the label as well.

The brand of synth pop no:carrier engages in isn't the bouncy, club-oriented kind; it is more of the melancholy variety like Chandeen, Machine in the Garden, Mirabilis, Bel Canto, Claire Voyant, Pristina, etc. Unlike some of those bands though, no:carrier eschews overly lush orchestrations and neoclassical conventions in favor of a simpler, uncluttered approach. The album cover provides some clue- Wechselberger and Wirsig dressed in black over a grey-white background (with a larger ghostly projection of their images) sitting in chairs with their backs to each other; Arty, Minimal, Remote. Much like the music on this album. I'm sure the cover was entirely calculated, and so is the music.

The often Kraftwerkian minimalism of the arrangements puts the accent solidly on the songs and the melody. Yes, there are some little studio tricks here and there but there is an elegant sparseness to 'Between The Chairs' that separates this band from a lot of others in the genre today. Most of the time, it works pretty well. Cynthia's vocals do have a certain distance about them, yet there is an undeniable undercurrent of emotion. Christian's infrequent vocals (with some processing) are spoken rather than sung; part rap and part flavor text.

So it is the songs and Cynthia's voice that are the focal point on this album. Her voice is smoky yet cool, like a menthol cigarette. The songs are a bit uneven, but when you have a collection of 14 songs, there are bound to be some that stand out ' 'Casting the First Stone,' 'Inside My Brain,' and 'Cask of Wonders' are pop gems. 'The Way You Laughed' is an odd ditty expressing sentimentality over a breakup, yet there is a cynical detachment in the vocals of both Wechselberger and Wirsig. On the 'The Turning Point' Cynthia's vocal recitation reminds me a lot of Anne Clark. 'Jerusalem Upon Your Palm' has a dark, Middle-Eastern vibe to it, but ends before it really has a chance to take off. I could have seen that song extended into something epic. 'High,' sounds like a mixture of Kate Bush, Jarboe, and Sarah McLachlan.

There really are no bad tracks on 'Between The Chairs,' it is just that some are better than others. Christian wrote almost everything on the album, but I'm sure Cynthia must have had a fair amount of input on the vocal melodies. There could be some major crossover potential on 'Between The Chairs,' yet it retains its own identity in the niche melancholy electro-pop genre. A good album worthy of discovery by the masses.



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